McConkey v. McConkey
216 Va. 106, 215 S.E.2d 640 (1975)

  • Clara and Edward were married. They got a divorce and Edward was ordered to pay alimony.
  • Clara went on to marry Calvin. Once she was legally married, Edward was allowed to stop paying alimony.
    • Typically, alimony payments are only made until the ex-spouse gets remarried or dies.
  • Calvin turned out to be an even bigger jerk than Edward was. Clara instituted an action against Calvin for divorce based on desertion, or annulment based on fraud. She received a decree of annulment.
  • After the annulment, Clara went back to court and asked for reinstatement of the alimony from Edward.
    • Clara argued that because her marriage to Calvin had been annulled, it legally never existed. So she legally never was remarried, as so was entitled to continuing alimony.
  • The Virginia Supreme Court found for Edward.
    • The Virginia Supreme Court found that Clara and Calvin’s marriage was not void ab initio.
      • Ab initio means that it never happened.
    • The Court found that Clara and Calvin’s marriage was instead voidable.
      • The Court found that it has been generally held that annulment of a voidable second marriage does not entitle a party to reinstatement of alimony payments from the party’s first spouse, where there is a Statute providing that alimony shall terminate upon the recipient’s remarriage.
      • Since a marriage can be annulled years afterwards, it would be unfair (aka violative of public policy) to people like Edward to have to always worry that they may one day have to start paying alimony again.
  • This case highlights the distinction between a void marriage and a voidable marriage.
    • In a void marriage, the marriage never technically happened because something was invalid from the very start (like it turns out that the guy was already married to someone else and so couldn’t possibly marry the new woman).
    • In a voidable marriage, the parties are legally married until one party moves to annul the marriage.
  • In this case, the Court declined to rule on what would have happened if Clara’s marriage had been void ab initio.
    • Other courts have ruled that alimony can be restored after such an annulment.
      • See Joye v. Yon (345 S.C. 264 (2001)).